It is ironic that Arlene Foster, the current leader of the DUP, has made exactly the same mistakes as David Trimble.
When David Trimble accepted the Good Friday Agreement and shared power with Seamus Mallon of the SDLP it was clear he did so begrudgingly, after long and difficult negotiations.
We never got the feeling that David and Seamus, or the UUP and SDLP were a team.
The deal was sold as being an unfortunate necessity, not as something to be welcomed, and so the half-hearted David Trimble and the UUP didn’t gain the trust of their electorate and were replaced by the DUP.
By contrast, Ian Paisley and the DUP enthusiastically embraced Sinn Fein and Martin McGuinness.
The years when the ‘Chuckle Brothers’ were in charge were imperfect, but the electorate liked the confidence & sense of direction and responded by backing the DUP/Sinn Fein team.
Sadly, under Arlene Foster the DUP has been behaving like the UUP under David Trimble.
The ‘brand image’ of a successful DUP politician has always been that of challenging nationalism and confronting Sinn Fein, so it is not surprising that, without a clear desire from the top to work for partnership with Sinn Fein, DUP politicians on the side-lines have sought easy publicity by antagonising and humiliating Sinn Fein over issues like the Irish language.
Sinn Fein reacted in anger seeking a confrontation over the Irish language act, more as a mark of equality and respect for their ‘Irishness’ than anything else and now we have chaos.
In the next few months, we in the unionist community need to decide if we want a Stormont assembly at all, and if we do, exactly how much are we prepared to allow the DUP concede on the Irish language?
Considering how gleeful the DUP were at condemning UUP politicians for concessions to the SDLP, the impulse might be to make it almost painfully impossible for the DUP to concede anything on Irish. But is a continued antagonism, stalemate and the destruction of Stormont in Northern Ireland’s long term interests?
If any compromise is to be found, it must be one that can be sold enthusiastically and with confidence by unionist leaders.
It is time for a serious talk among all unionists about what role, if any Irish should have in this part of Ireland.
Mr A Carton, Belfast BT6